Trembling under the small table, the little dog softly whined. His eyes didn't leave The Man, who was drunkenly yelling and throwing his boots across the room.
"Where are ya, ya little shit?" The Man hollered. "Got into the trash agin. I'll snap your neck when I get ahold of ya."
The dog crept backwards until he was behind the old, ripped sofa. From his vantage point, he could see The Man's feet, dingy socks with holes in the toes, stomping around the room. Crouching down and tucking his tail between his legs, the dog made himself as small as possible.
"Useless mutt," The Man growled. He picked up the easy chair, and threw it on its side.
The dog watched as The Man got closer to the sofa. As the feet approached, the dog scrambled backward to the other end.
The Man put his hands on the bottom of the sofa and pulled it away from the wall. "There you are, you little shit. Git over here." He reached behind to grab him, but the dog popped out the far end and ran across the living room.
He heard heavy footfalls behind him, getting closer. Feeling a breeze across his tail as The Man swung his hand down, the little dog gave one last burst of speed and launched himself out the doggy door into the back yard.
The Man was really yelling now. Throwing himself out the door after the dog, he broke the screen door off its hinges.
Barely feeling his feet touch the frozen ground, the little dog ran to the back of the yard. Behind the old broken-down shed, there was a small hole in the fence. He scrambled through it. His collar caught on a piece of the broken fence, bringing his flight to a sudden halt. He dug his feet into the cold dirt and pulled harder. Then he felt The Man grab his hind leg.
With a growl, the dog reached back and nipped his hand.
The Man screamed and let go. "You little - I will kill you. You think you can bite me?" He grabbed for the dog again.
With a fierce tug, the collar broke and the little dog took off running again. He headed for the woods. The sound of The Man yelling faded as he raced past the trees. He was almost two miles away before he finally stopped running.
With the wind whipping and the moon hiding behind a thick cover of clouds, the little dog found himself in a cemetery. Discovering a little nook near a small stone building, he curled up and tried to stay warm. Throughout the night, he lay awake, aware of unseen presences drifting nearby. Whether he was shaking from fear or cold, he didn't know.
After a few hours of trying to sleep and stay warm, the little dog gave up. The sun would be up soon. With a shiver, he started to trot through the gravestones with nowhere in particular to go. He only knew that he was safe from The Man.
Squeezing through a large wrought iron gate, he found himself on the side of a road. Still trotting to stay warm, he crossed the street and headed into the trees. Following the edge of the forest, he stayed near the road.
As he wandered aimlessly, he became aware of footsteps closer to the road. They were slow-moving and shuffling. Coming out of the woods, he saw a woman stumbling along. She stopped when their eyes met.
"Aww, come here, little guy," she said.
The little dog cautiously approached her with a small whine.
When she bent over and tried to pick him up, he could feel a rush of heat radiating out from her. The little dog knew she was sick. She tried to put her hands around him, but he squirmed and she let go.
"I don't know what I'd do with you," she mumbled. She continued to walk down the street.
The little dog followed her. Smelling snow in the air, he knew he had to find shelter soon. A big storm was coming.
The woman's steps were becoming more erratic. Knowing she wasn't well, he wanted to find help for her, too. A car was coming. The little dog ran out into the road, hoping the driver would see them.
The car swerved around him and came to a stop. Just then, the woman fell to the ground. The little dog ran over to her and nudged her with his nose. With a whine, he looked up at the man coming toward them.
When the man had the woman safely in the car, he looked down at the little dog. "What about you?" he asked.
The little dog could feel a warmth coming from inside the vehicle. He looked up at the man and liked the kindness in his eyes. Hearing the woman let out a small moan, he needed no more encouragement. Jumping into the back seat, he curled up next to her and was warm for the first time in hours.
As the first snowflakes started to fly and the car moved down the road, the little dog closed his eyes, breathed a deep, happy sigh and finally succumbed to sleep.